Assessments, Practice Groups, and Practices

Who is required to attend an Assessment for the Spring Season?

Starting in 2015 we began requiring and scheduling assessments of New 8 & Under swimmers prior to charging the full registration fee and having the swimmer join the team.  This year we are scheduling assessments for our newest and youngest swimmers on two weekend days well before Splash Week.  Why? 

Well, we are often asked if we think a child is ready for the team or if we think s/he should register for our pre-team tadpole program or the team.  Always good questions, but really ones that can only be answered through coach assessment.  With our "team ready" assessment approach, you will register for a $5.00 assessment, receive the coach's assessment and within a couple of days know if your young child should register for our team this year, our tadpole program (if the program time works for you), or continue to seek private lessons for your child and try again next year. 

We see several benefits to this new approach.  1) Parents and swimmers not having to wait until March to find out if their child is ready for the team 2) an opportunity for some borderline swimmers to get up to speed before the team practices start in March, and 3) a more positive experience for the child who isn't quite ready.   

The fee for an assessment is $5.00.  If Coach Marie feels that your child is ready for the team, she will advise you, we will move your child onto the team (or waitlist) and apply your $5.00 assessment fee toward the registration fee.

Please note that Assessments are only required for swimmers who will be 8 years or younger as of our first meet of the season (usually the last weekend in April).    

What is the Assessment Schedule for the Spring Season?

Because Tidalwaves offers practice for our New 8 & Unders at both College of Marin, Kentfield and at Redwood, we will be assessing these two groups of swimmers separately, as shown in the chart below:


 Child's Practice Location Assessment Location Assessment Date Assessment Times
College of Marin, Kentfield   College of Marin, Kentfield February 4, 2017 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Redwood Redwood January 28, 2017 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

*College of Marin, Kentfield Address:  835 College Avenue, Kentfield.

If your child cannot make the early assessment date, please register for the Assessment Group anyway, and then contact coach Marie (  If necessary we will add another assessment day opportunity or your child can come for assessment during Splash Week.  Please note, however, that swimmers who attend one of the early assessment dates will have priority if we reach our maximum number of swimmers.

What if my child can not make the Assessment Date/Time?

Please register for the Assessment Group anyway, and then contact coach Marie (  Please note, however, that swimmers who attend one of the early assessment dates will have priority if we reach our maximum number of swimmers.

My child is a New 8 and Under but a Tadpole "Graduate".  Should s/he attend  an assessment?

Please check with Coach Marie directly on whether she would like to assess your tadpole graduate before you register.

My child is a New 8 and Under but a Winter Swim "Graduate".  Should s/he attend  an assessment?

All New 8 & Under Winter Swim graduates may register for the team without assessment. 

What is Splash Week and why does it last 2 weeks?

Splash week(s) run the first two weeks of practice for the Spring/Summer program and are held at Redwood. It’s an opportunity for the coaches to assess the ability of all returning swimmers and new "team ready" swimmers, and decide how best to break the swimmers into practice groups.  It is also a fun way to kick off our season as board members are on hand to answer questions, hot chocolate is served to all swimmers (a huge motivator for the swimmers!), team gear is available for purchase, and the kids get into, or back into, the swim of things!  It lasts for two weeks in order to allow the coaches sufficient time to evaluate all swimmers.

Swimmers are encouraged to make all of their assigned evaluation days to help the coaches make the most informed decisions possible.  However, if your swimmer can’t make every one, the coaches will do the best they can with the information available to them.

Assessments for Fall Swim or Winter Swim programs need to be arranged thru Coach Marie,

How many days of the week are practices offered?

For our Redwood practice groups, practices are offered Monday – Friday with clinics available on Saturdays during the pre-meet season and some Sundays during the meet season. 

For our College of Marin (COM) swimmers, practices are held Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 3:00 - 3:30pm during the Spring Season.  College of Marin swimmers do have the option of attending practice at Redwood, but it is our hope that if your child registers for the COM group that s/he will attend most practices there.  This is to help alleviate crowding at Redwood as well as build consistency among team mates and practice groups.

How many days of practice are recommended?

After splash week it’s up to you and your child how often your child swims.  The primary goal of most of the swimmers on our team is to improve their swimming ability.  The best way to improve is to practice, practice, and practice! 

Coach Marie strongly encourages swimmers to plan to come 3 – 4 days a week.  We do track and award attendance to help stress the value of commitment to the sport to obtain personal bests.  That said, it is up to you and your child to set the practice schedule that is best for him or her.  Some kids come only 2 days per week, but at that level of commitment, the results of the experience will not be as rewarding for your child.

 Is practice ever cancelled for any reason?

Yes. It doesn’t happen often, however, during the Redwood High School swim season, Redwood will host between 3 and 5 home meets.  These meets often run as late as 6:30 pm which can cause Tidalwaves to cancel practice for our earliest practice groups.  We try to communicate the Redwood meet schedule as soon as we know it with reminder e-mails going out the week of the meet. 

We do practice in the rain!  What the heck, they're already wet!

Additionally, there are usually a few days where Redwood will close the pool for maintenance reasons and/or school events.  We try to relay this information to our parents as soon as Redwood lets us know.


When, where and how long are practices?

Tidalwaves primary practice pool is Redwood High School.  This pool is used for both our Winter Swim and Spring/Summer programs. Practices are held at Redwood High School every Monday – Friday and clinics are held at Redwood on Saturdays prior to meet season (May-July). Starting in 2014, Tidalwaves also began offering practices at College of Marin Kentfield.  These practices are only for our 8 & Unders and tadpole swimmers and are offered early in the afternoon. In 2017, our College of Marin practice time will be from 3:00 - 3:30 pm on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday thru mid June.  Our Tadpole program is also held at College of Marin from 2:30 - 3:00pm on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

We are often asked why we don't practice later at College of Marin to make it a practice option for the kids in our community that are in school until 3:00pm.  The answer is, we would if we could!  Pool time in our community is extremely scarce and we are constantly competing with other programs for the space that we have.  We are lucky to have this pool time at COM and for those who cannot take advantage of it, we are happy to be able to offer practice opportunities at Redwood.   

Length of practice depends on the age/ability of the swimmer.  The youngest and least experienced swimmers start out at 30 minutes a day and the more experienced swimmers swim from 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes per day.

At Redwood, practice times begin after the Redwood High School team vacates the pool (generally starting at 5:30 or 5:40 in the evening) and go until 8:15 at night.  While the Tidalwaves coaches and board would love more practice time for all of our swimmers, we are constrained by the Redwood High School schedule and pool use negotiations with the other programs that also wish to use the pool. Our practice times are within the norm for the league, however.

The schedule is subject to change every year, but for reference, below is the schedule that was used from March – Mid-May for the 2016 season.


    Practice Group                                     Time

  8 & Under Blue                                    5:30 – 6:00

  8 & Under Gold                                    5:30 – 6:15

  9 – 10 Blue                                          6:15 – 7:00

  9 – 10 Gold                                          6:00 – 7:00

  11 & Up Shallow                                  7:00 – 8:15

  11 & Up Deep                                       7:00 – 8:15


Additional practice time becomes available at the conclusion of the Redwood High School swimming season and the practice schedule shifts at that time (generally the last or second to last week of May).  Again, this schedule is subject to change every year, but for reference below is the Post Redwood High School season for the 2016 season.

       Practice Group                                      Time

  8 & Under Blue                                      3:45 - 4:20

  8 & Under Gold                                      3:45 - 4:35

  9 – 10 Blue                                            5:30 - 6:15

  9 – 10 Gold                                            5:45 - 6:45

  11 & Up Shallow                                    4:10 - 5:30

  11 & Up Deep                                         4:25 - 5:45


Do the coaches track how many days of practice my child has attended?

Yes.  In 2013, Coach Marie implemented attendance tracking as a way to help encourage kids to keep up the intensity.  The attendance tracking program offered incentive awards at three separate times in the season for those swimmers who made it to an average of 4 practices a week during each of the three ‘Sweet 16’ practice periods.  The program was well received by all swimmers.  The program is subject to refinement over time.

How does the coach determine which practice group a child belongs in?

The coaches assess many factors in determining which practice group a swimmer is best suited for.  In general the emphasis is on technique, experience, age, and commitment-- not necessarily speed.   

How/When will my child's practice group be communicated?

Practice group assignments will be posted to the website the weekend after the second week of Splash Week(s).  Please note that you will need to log into your Team Unify account to view this information which will be found under the Practice Schedules tab.

How many kids are in each group?

The number of kids in each group varies from year to year with registration numbers and the mix of skills in each age group. 


Should I force my child to go to practice?

We all know the answer is “No,” but sometimes it helps to have it in writing.  Let the coaches motivate the kids, let your kids find their own rhythm, and let their natural enthusiasm be their drive (or not).  They may not get the connection between better practice attendance/effort and more improvement immediately, but when it does click for them, they’ll have a far greater love for the sport knowing it was their decision to work harder that resulted in their improvement.


Will my child get individual instruction from the coaches during practice?

Yes.  The coaches are constantly doing drills, giving the swimmers feedback, and assessing what each practice group is ready to learn.  Trust that our coaches are skilled at knowing when and how to correct each swimmer and that all children learn at different rates.  That said however, if you do not feel like your child is getting enough instruction during practice consider these ways to help your child: 

  • Suggest that your child attend more practices.  Each day of practice per week represents 20% more learning opportunity for your child. 

  • Consider the weekend clinics for an opportunity to work on specific skills.  A schedule of available clinics will be available before the season begins.

  • Consider getting your child a private lesson.  No matter what subject is being taught one on one attention provides the greatest opportunity for connection and improvement.  Throughout the league, all MSL teams offer and encourage private lessons for their swimmers. 

  • Communicate your concern to coach Marie.  She is always open to hearing parent concerns, just not on the deck during practice—on the deck her focus must be on the kids in the water.  The best way to communicate with Marie is through e-mail: or by calling her at (415) 453-9563, although as you can imagine with over 200 swimmers, her voice mail often fills up. 


Can my child switch practice groups mid-season?

Yes.  This can happen if the coaches determine that your child’s ability is better suited for another group or if your child has a birthday during the season and is “aging up” into the next age group.  Coach Marie will contact you if she believes your child is ready to switch groups.  Please note that in making a switch Marie is looking at the child’s readiness as well as the balance of swimmers in each group.


Is practice still held if it is raining?

Yes.  We swim in rain and wind (not lightning).  What the heck, they’re already wet!


Are parents expected to stay for practice and are they allowed to sit on the pool deck to watch?

Parents are not expected to stay.  They may stay, just not on the deck.  There are numerous reasons for this policy.  Often, the youngest swimmers want to hang onto their parents if they are close by.  It is also a distraction and a safety issue.  You are welcome to bring a deck chair and sit outside the fence by the pool entrance or behind the pool.


If I have questions/concerns about my child, when is the appropriate time to approach the coaches and what is the best way to communicate with them (in person, email)?

The best way to communicate with Marie is through e-mail: or by calling her at (415) 453-9563, although as you can imagine with over 200 swimmers, her voice mail often fills up.  Please do not try to communicate with the coaches while they are on the deck.  Their attention must be focused on the swimmers when they are on the deck.  This is for the safety of the children as well as to maximize practice time for all swimmers.